BEL MOONEY: I met a girl online: is it too soon to talk about marriage? 

Dear Bel,

I am on a dating website with the aim of finding a partner who, in time, will become my wife.

Just before Christmas I received a message from a girl who lives many miles away. We exchanged messages and photos, then our telephone numbers.

We seemed to be getting along well — she even said she’d be willing to re-locate to my town. Sometimes she’d call me at work and we phoned nearly every night and sent messages.

Thought of the day 

I am in love with every church

And mosque 

And temple

And any kind of shrine 

Because I know it is there 

That people say the different names Of the One God.

Hafez (Persian poet, 1315 – 1390)


But I made the mistake of searching for her on one social media platform and she didn’t like that. She asked if I was ‘stalking’ her. The following day my apology was not acknowledged when we spoke.

For four weeks our communication became almost non-existent, though I’d try topics and sometimes get a cool, reserved response — even hinting she does not want to leave her family and relocate.

Most of my friends say my relationship with her is on its last legs and I should let her go — but I’m struggling to do so.

One friend suggested I should message her and say that I am willing to travel and take her out. Another friend believes me saying I am fond of her and missed her company put me in a weak position. He reckons she’ll take full advantage and if we got married, and that our marriage would not last more than a year.

Two weeks ago, we had a long talk. She’s waiting until we go on a date before she decides where our relationship is going. She is still keeping her cards close to her chest. I’m trying very hard to build bridges and take our communication to the same level it used to be. I’m worried we will drift apart.

While I was on good terms with her, she did mention the difficulty of long-distance relationships.

Right now, it’s me who is keeping this friendship/relationship alive. I’m not sure how much longer I should give it.

Am I over-thinking the situation and being overwhelming?

I’m utterly confused — unsure whether or not she is interested in making this friendship/ relationship work. In your opinion, is it dead or just dying?

If the latter, how do I resuscitate our bond and what key points do I need work on so I don’t lose her? I can’t believe how she turned from being so warm to be so cold. Her feelings can’t have changed so quickly.


This week Bel advises a young man who has fallen for a woman he met online and desperately wants to fix their bond after a disagreement  

Since I only have space here for less than half your original letter, I know enough to feel equally sympathetic and exasperated. So my answer will first be general, then specific.

Let’s start by clarifying the timeline. You were contacted by this lady through the dating site not long before Christmas. Two weeks into January you fell out over your ‘stalking’ mis-step.

Your efforts at communication met with scant success until ten days ago — and this girl of your dreams you have never met is cool and reserved and you are bitterly confused and disappointed.

Now, this is the question I’m compelled to ask all those who place such faith and hope in dating sites: in what universe can such a pitiful account of distant, brief interaction between two strangers be called a ‘relationship’?

What needy illusions lead a young woman to mention ‘relocating’ after merely talking on the telephone to a man five hours away — and him to mention marriage?

Dating websites can be very useful and I know they have led to marriage.

Naturally, older people like me are more used to the idea of meeting a partner through college or work or social life, but we can’t close our minds to more up-to-date methods.

What we can say is that you simply cannot call it a ‘relationship’ or ‘bond’ when you have never even met.

You both went far too fast, and then when you messed up over social media, she did a swift U-turn.

I’m sorry, but I believe she was only exercising common sense. You were much too keen and you are still much too keen — and therefore doomed to disappointment. All those who put their faith in dating sites should be wary. They have limitations.

Now here comes the part specific to you. Your mention of marriage seemed strange and unusual — and it turns out that you are obeying what is a deep, cultural and religious imperative.

Not for you the rather sleazy ‘swipe right’ and ‘hook-up’ habits of Western youth; you are a serious young man with ‘old school traditional values’ and a sincere wish to go on a religious pilgrimage with your future wife one day.

But you two live at opposite ends of England, so this one is a non-starter.

You should stop contacting her, because it’s a waste of time and she might soon consider it harassment. Leave her alone to message somebody near where she lives, just as you should do. Try to meet somebody local within your faith group so that you can date and see how you get on.

A real relationship requires understanding tone, expression, body language; it needs familiarity, teasing, shared tastes and good conversation, built up over many meetings.

You sound like a sincere, potentially deeply caring guy who has a good chance of making somebody very happy.

It’s hard to tell my boys my troubles

Dear Bel,

I’m 74 — a divorced mum of three grown-up sons. My eldest does try to keep in touch despite a very busy life. My middle son and his wife both work very hard with scant spare time — and two bright, busy children. My youngest lives fairly near but (recently divorced — no kids) works long hours to cover his mortgage.

I miss my sons so much, although I have many friends. Their father and I are estranged; he never gave any support, financial or otherwise.

I live in a lovely cottage, do yoga, meditation classes etc. But at the end of the day I feel isolated and lonely, and without a decent pension my financial situation is quite tenuous. I also suffer from long-term clinical depression and poor physical health.

I try to be positive, put on a ‘happyish’ face and keep my troubles largely to myself, as I don’t want to spoil my sons’ lives more than absolutely necessary.

Right now I’m in a very bad place, physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t know how to tell my sons.

I feel desperate about my health and wellbeing and am not sure how much longer I can keep going while staying quiet. Which way should I go without creating a huge chasm between me and my sons? I couldn’t bear my life without them. I love them so much.


Why should letting the human beings you gave birth to know you love and need them ‘spoil’ their lives? Why should a true account of how you are feeling open ‘a huge chasm’?

I’ve seen a mother collie growl a warning at her large offspring when he ran to greet her and in the animal world it works the other way, too; the young do not nurture their parents. But I persist in hoping we humans are different.

At best, we obey ties of affection, piety, respect, love and tradition and value our elders. The fact so many families understandably fall short of that ideal is no reason to let it go.


More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

You say you love your sons and stress how busy they all are; your chief concern is not to be a burden. Which is all very noble.

But you are the only mother each of them has ever had and they should know how you are feeling — and that although you keep yourself busy and live in apparent contentment in your cottage, that is not the full story.

You say you are ‘lonely — and yet stress activities and friendships. So the situation you describe is really more specific than the generic loneliness that afflicts so many people (and not just the old) lacking human interaction in our complex society.

I suggest you are not alone, as such — but full of longing. You have friends, yet miss the attention of the three men who owe their busy lives to the woman who carried each of them for nine months and then nurtured them.

Would it make them feel guilty to know you are sad, unwell and ‘quite desperate’? Perhaps …but (here’s the tough me talking) so what? It could be said they have a right to know. Surely they have a duty? Maybe they would work out a system of regular calls/ emails/visits. I entirely approve of your brave face, but it shouldn’t stop you from telling the truth.

If I were you, I would write a ‘happyish’ email to all three, giving an update on your health in a matter-of-fact tone and saying you would like to chat about the future (including your will). Like it or not, we all need to face up to practicalities (including future care) and now would be a good time to start.

 And finally…Plant trees and pick up rubbish!

My mother groans a little as she gets out in Tesco’s car park. ‘I feel old,’ she said.

‘Well, you are 95!’ I reply cheerfully. She nods and we shop for her groceries. There’s a lesson there about keeping going . . . an example for me.

It’s not always easy witnessing beloved parents struggle at the same time as coping with your own aches and pains. We all just get on with it.

Meanwhile, my husband Robin and daughter-in-law Aimee are planting 45 little trees (bought from the Woodland Trust) at the end of our field, while two grandsons ‘help’. In time, the trees will act as a ‘lung’ against traffic in the lane — where horrible people sometimes fly-tip.

Of course, of our four generations, most of us won’t see them grow tall; we’ll be frolicking in the glorious forest in the sky. All the more reason to get on with it right now.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected].

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Two weeks ago I published a letter from 25-year-old ‘Hanna’ — bitterly angry and unhappy at her lack of worldly success and Brexit and people not caring about the planet. I tried to give a positive pep talk, which included the words: ‘the trajectory of humankind is towards slow-but-sure betterment. It really, really is.’

A loyal reader called Stephen approved of this tone (especially as he has two daughters) and recommended the book Factfulness by the late global educator Hans Rosling to reinforce the message.

The subtitle is Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World — And Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

Packed with statistics, it’s a blast of fresh air. Everybody should read this fascinating paperback (greatly admired by Barack Obama), especially poor Hanna, and all those who cry ‘catastrophe’ at just about everything.

The moral in all this? For a start (with two terrific Mail campaigns at the forefront of my mind) I’ll say: ‘Plant trees and pick up rubbish!’ Then, make the most of the time you have on this Earth, be positive — and (even when things go wrong) just get on with it.